Dave Sanders / The New York Times

February 7, 2020

Ithaca Town Conservation Board Discusses Deer Hunting, Timber Permit

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Deer management, timber permits, sustainability recommendations for the community are all in a day’s work for the Ithaca Town Government’s Conservation Board.

At a meeting Thursday evening, the board discussed the future of the Deer Management Focused Area, a state-managed program that aims to reduce the burden of excessive deer populations in central Tompkins County by allowing for more hunting. In the area, licensed hunters are eligible for free permits granting extra hunting time and carcass tags.

“This [deer management] isn’t just a small regional issue, this is a multi-state issue,” said Michael Roberts, chair of the board.

The board includes many Cornell staff and alumni, including Roberts, the natural areas project manager for Cornell Botanical Gardens and Vice Chair Hannah George ’16, along with many non-university affiliated town residents.

The all-volunteer, 10-member board works on a wide range of conservation issues, collaborating to preserve the town of Ithaca’s natural resources.

Within the zone, unless otherwise banned by a particular town — such as Ithaca or the Village of Cayuga Heights — registered hunters can take up to two antlerless deer per day during regular hunting seasons and a special January hunting season for this reason.

While some Ithaca area hunters eat the animals they kill, some of the hunters who participated in the extended January hunting season did so to help manage the deer population rather than to put food on the table.

“A couple of them mentioned that their freezer was already full [of deer meat] and they were just there to help,” said Mike Smith, senior planner for the Town of Ithaca.

The board also considered applications for a timber harvest permit, which would allow cutting down trees in a conservation zone in Ithaca. However, some members expressed concerns that granting the permit might disturb migratory birds, violating the federal Migratory Bird Act.

“They [the applicants] might be compliant with the town code but not with federal law,” Lindsay Dombroskie said.

The committee eventually concluded that they should review the relevant federal laws, and advise the applicants to be careful of what trees they cut down and when due to the time sensitive nature of bird migration.

In addition to local wildlife management and governance, the conservation board also works to address the carbon footprint of the town residents. A separate group working on implementing Ithaca’s Green New Deal has explored tree planting opportunities in collaboration with the Conservation Board, according to Smith.

The board also looks to educate town residents about the role that they can play in making a greener future. George is in the process of creating a Climate Action Checklist for the Greater Ithaca Area, and discussed both its contents and how best to advertise with the board.

Suggestions on this checklist include more traditional recommendations such as recycling, composting, using greener fuel sources and reducing waste as well as volunteering, voting, and learning more about the issues. George wanted to make the checklist accessible to all residents, regardless of whether or not they were a homeowner.

The board discussed the finer points of the recommendations, as well as how best to publicize the ideas. While strategy largely focused on social media outreach and how best to use online platforms, some less tech-oriented board members made sure that the checklist will not go entirely digital.

“I am still not on Facebook or Twitter and never will be,” Hoffmann said. “There are other people like me too, and for people who are not into using computers, you need paper copies.”

The board members not only discussed measures to encourage the public to do, they were also interested in making their own lifestyles sustainable.

“I feel a sense of urgency [about climate change],” Roberts said. “Instead of running around feeling like my hair is on fire, I want to know I am doing something.”